Spring: Carnival time
Known variously as Fasching, Festnacht and Karneval, the German Mardi Gras has its roots in the pagan celebration of spring. In the predominantly Catholic parts of the country, it’s a time of feasting and fun before the fasting and penance of Lent. Although the festival season is long, the real carnival week starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. The best places to join in are Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz.
Summer: Bayreuth Festival
If Germany were a piece of music, it would probably have been written by Richard Wagner. Every year, his work is showcased in one of the most celebrated opera festivals in the world. Indeed, the event is so popular that tickets are extremely hard to come by. If luck is on your side, you might have a chance of some last-minute returns. If so, one thing is guaranteed: a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience.
Oktoberfest and Christmas markets
Attracting more than 5 million visitors each year, Oktoberfest in Munich is not only the world’s festival, it also bears witness to just about every German stereotype you could imagine. Except one: the strange idea that Germans don’t know how to have fun! Running from late September to the first weekend in October, it’s a brass-, barbecue- and beer-fuelled celebration of the uniquely German love of life. Prost!
Germany in winter would be a cold place indeed without the festive warmth and mulled-wine aroma of the traditional Christkindlmarkt. Dating back more than 700 years, Christmas markets are held in town and city squares throughout the country during the four weeks of Advent. Find the perfect gifts to take home from the stalls laden with wooden toys, ginger bread houses, handmade jewellery and so much more. Among the oldest and most famous are those in Dortmund, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart and Augsburg.